Galactic-No: Why Antonio Conte Is the Wrong Man to Fix Real Madrid - Sports Illustrated

The vultures have been circling the Santiago Bernabeu ever since Julen Lopetegui defaulted on the chance to coach his national team to World Cup glory. 

When the then 51-year-old signed his premature contract with Real Madrid, it was widely condemned by armchair pundits using a version of the following phrase: 'Why would you forego the opportunity to lead your country at a World Cup, for six months at Real?' 

It now seems as though even that was a generous assessment, with the unedifying 5-1 Clásico defeat likely condemning Lopetegui's tenure to a miserly four months.


Chief among these encircling vultures has been Antonio Conte. With the boats of Madrid and Paris already sailing when the Italian was finally relieved of the chore that being Chelsea manager had become, he was consigned to play the waiting game - appeased by his seismic severance package from the Blues.

With the wait now surely up, the chief vulture is honing in on the carcass in the capital. But is Conte really the right man/metaphorical bird for this restorative role? Or is he just the most high-profile option available.

Because the principle reason for Conte's appointment seems to be a reversion to the Galactico sensibilities of the club's past. It's an over-correction of the mistakes of the summer. The thinking seems to be if you can't get galactic players in until January, a managerial colossus is the next best thing. 


Lopetegui always seemed like a strange choice. He had never really succeeded at club level; getting sacked after 11 games in his first gig at Rayo Vallecano, a year at Real Madrid B and failing to win a trophy in two years at Porto (whilst also equalling the club's biggest ever defeat) were the most notable items on his domestic CV until Florentino Perez came calling.

But is getting in a comparatively big name, and inherently a successful one too, really the best cure for the side's current malaise? Because the former Juventus manager comes with his own baggage too, of course. 

For one, he has notoriously never found success easy to come by in the Champions League. While he would point to the credence many of the Juve players have placed upon the Europa League run of 2013/14 in their run to the Champions Final the following year, as well as his widely praised game-plan for that opening leg with Barcelona in 2018, the fact remains he has never got past the quarter finals. 

For a club where the competition is so ingrained in the very fabric of their DNA, and particularly fortified in these last five years, European submission is not on the table. 


Secondly, one would think the appointment of the Italian would more or less rule out any potential move for Eden Hazard that is in the offing. Maurizio Sarri's arrival in west London, and the precipitating success it has brought the Belgian, has only further outlined the previous divisions between the 27-year-old and his former manager. 

Why he would revert to the defensively minded ways of Conte after enjoying all the fruits that Sarri-ball has granted him thus far is a question the Madrid hierarchy will have to ask themselves before jumping the gun with the Italian. While they're there, they can discuss Thibaut Courtois' prospects under the same regime.

There's no denying that the 49-year-old is a coach of the highest calibre, but he's not what the Spanish giants need right now. They would be far wiser to take a chance on one of the untested Santiago Solari or Guti, and hope they can replicate the organic success of Zinedine Zidane.

If not, they can merely operate as a stop-gap until the summer, whereupon the club can go hell-for-leather for a Mauricio Pochettino, a Massimiliano Allegri, or even a Jurgen Klopp - at which point each of whom may have achieved all they can at their respective clubs.

The loss of Cristiano Ronaldo has left a talisman-shaped hole at the club, but as tempting as it is to fill it by any means necessary and as soon as possible, Madrid do not need someone as vocal and divisive as Antonio Conte right now. 

The Italian's favourite verb throughout his career, and the one the he's invariably learnt first in his foreign forays, has been 'to fight.' Madrid need someone with a more appeasing vocabulary. They need a lover, not a fighter.